The Association of Retired Conservationists was organized by a group of retirees from the Wisconsin Conservation Department in the 1960's. By the mid-1970's, the WCD had been combined with the Department of Resource Development to form the Department of Natural Resources, and the retirees group had grown significantly, met monthly for lunch and began inviting speakers to address the group on issues of interest to the members. Today, the organization has more than two hundred members.

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What's New in 2024

June Special Guest Speaker
David Ortiz
Wisconsin Greenfire

See David's presentation here.

David Ortiz photo David A. Ortiz is a PhD candidate at UW-Madison in the Center for Limnology. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in environmental science from Iowa State University.

His doctoral research focuses on spatial variability of lakes and water chemistry during algal blooms.

As a Conservation Fellow for Wisconsin's Green Fire, he was a lead author of the literature review, "The Effects of Wake Boats on Lake Ecosystem Health."

Go here to see the final report

Bob Schaefer Awarded 2024 Wisconsin Coalition of Annuitants Blair Testin Award

Bob Schaefer, our ARC representative at the Wisconsin Coalition of Annuitants, was awarded the Blair Testin Award at the Coalition's 2024 Annual Conference. The award is presented to an individual who has shown a deep interest and leadership role in being an advocate of the Wisconsin Retirement System.

Diane Wilcenski, the Coalition Chair, commented

. . . "Bob has garnered his experience from 33 years working for the DNR. He was involved in bargaining for the State Engineering Association (SEA) during most of that time and directly involved in 8 or 9 contract negotiations. He has been on the WiCOA Board for about 14 years and served as the previous chair as we changed from face-to-face meetings to virtual meetings.

Bob’s goal is to encourage members to continue to be involved in their Wisconsin Retirement System, the best and one of the largest in the U.S."

Slack, Major General (Ret.) Jerald David “Jerry”

Major General (Ret.) Jerald David “Jerry” Slack, USANG, passed away in his home on the evening of May 18, 2024, following a brief but courageous battle with cancer, holding his wife Sherill’s hand and surrounded by his children and grandchildren.

Jerry was born on Feb. 14, 1936, in Peoria, Ill., the first of four boys born to Lois and Clarence Slack. He graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1959. On March 26, 1959, the day he finished his last exam, he married his high school sweetheart, Sherill Ann Cordts. After the wedding, Jerry and Sherill moved to Madison, Wis., to begin Jerry’s new position as a Civil Engineer with the State Highway Commission. Jerry’s civilian career progressed rapidly in parallel with his military career. He became registered in the State of Wisconsin as a professional engineer. From the Highway Commission, he went to the Bureau of Engineering, then transferred to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources where he advanced to the position of Chief Engineer, ultimately finishing his civilian career as the Administrator of the State of Wisconsin Division of Facilities Management.

General Slack proudly served his country for 37 years in the National Guard. He began his career with the Illinois Air National Guard in 1959 and subsequently transferred to the Wisconsin Air National Guard in 1961 where he was commissioned as an officer. In 1962 General Slack attended Air Force pilot training at Craig AFB in Selma, Ala., where he flew the T-37 and T-33 aircraft on his way to becoming a winged air force pilot. He next attended interceptor training in the F-102 at Perrin AFB in Denison, Texas, graduating in 1964 as a fighter pilot. He went on to fly F-89s and F-102s with the 176th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Truax Field, Madison, Wis. He conducted the air defense alert mission until 1974. In 1974 the F-102 was replaced with the O-2 forward air control aircraft and the unit transitioned to become the 176th Tactical Air Support Squadron where General Slack flew through 1979. His favorite memory of this period was his brother, Robert Slack, transferring from the Illinois Air National guard to fly with him in the 176th, a time which General Slack fondly recalled saying, “Not a lot of guys get to fly with their brother in the Air Force.” General Slack became the squadron commander in November of 1979 when the O-2 was replaced by the OA-37. In October of 1981 the unit converted to the A-10 and was redesignated as the 176th Tactical Fighter Squadron. General Slack took great pride in “turning the 176th back into a fighter squadron” and went on to fly the A-10 until 1987. After 3,200 hours as a command pilot he decided to “let the young pilots takeover” and hang up flying. Gov. Tommy Thompson appointed General Slack Adjutant General of the state of Wisconsin in 1989. In this role he oversaw over 12,300 Wisconsin Guardsmen in their state and federal mission. His primary objective as the Adjutant General was to integrate the Wisconsin National Guard more closely into the federal mission. During his tenure as Adjutant General his success in this effort was clearly demonstrated by deployments in Desert Storm, Southern and Northern Watch, and Operation Deny Flight. General Slack was extremely proud of the role the Wisconsin National Guard played in these conflicts as with subsequent deployments in support of the war on terror following his retirement in 1996. These deployments included the service of both his son, Major John Slack, and his grandson, SSgt Jake Lenz, who is going to carry on the general’s legacy by working towards flying with the 176th Fighter Squadron.

Following his retirement Jerry set his focus on a new career as Grandpa Jerry. In 1994 his first grandson, Everett Lenz, was born followed by Olivia Lenz in 1997, Isabella Lenz in 1999, Jake Lenz in 2001, Wyatt Slack in 2003, and finally Cole Slack in 2007. In 2000 Jerry built his dream home on the Yahara River south of Stoughton. All six of Jerry’s grandchildren lived within a few miles of him and enjoyed nothing more than spending time at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Jerry had a unique gift of connecting with the kids and of teaching them work ethic and life skills while making it seem like they were just having fun. His grandsons all learned lawn maintenance, basic carpentry and home repair skills, how to drive trucks and tractors, and how to always remember to take a break for one of Grandma’s big lunches or to grab an ice-cold root beer out of the garage fridge. Jerry’s granddaughters always liked to visit on Saturday mornings where they knew they would be greeted by Grandma and Grandpa as if they had not seen them in months, anxious to hear all the details about their week at school, and knowing that if you timed it right Grandpa would insist on making a pancake breakfast. Jerry was always supportive and encouraging but never pushing. Jerry always truly listened to the kids and helped them all believe they could be anything they chose to be in life.

Jerry is survived by the love of his life, his wife of 65 years, Sherill Cordt Slack; daughters, Ann Slack (Tom Rice) and Sara Lenz (Dan Lenz); grandchildren, Everett Lenz (Anna Miller), Olivia Lenz (Christopher Erb), Isabella Lenz, Jake Lenz (Arianna Felland), Wyatt Slack and Cole Slack; and brothers, Jim Slack, Robert Slack (Renee) and Steven Slack (Ellen). Jerry was preceded in death by his parents, Lois and Clarence Slack; his son, John Cordts Slack; and his grandson, Calvin Slack Lenz.

Jerry was a devoted, loving husband, father, grandfather and friend that will be deeply missed by many. A memorial service, celebrating the wonderful life of Jerry will be held at the FIRST UNITARIAN SOCIETY, 900 University Bay Drive, Madison, Wis., at 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 21, 2024.

Memorials may be made to John Cordts Slack Memorial Scholarship Fund #112548266 to: UW Foundation, U.S. Bank Lockbox #78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807.

Online condolences may be made at

Gunderson East
Funeral & Cremation Care
5203 Monona Drive
(608) 221-5420

Hewett, Steven Wayne

Steven Wayne Hewett, 73, of Spring Green, Wisconsin passed away on May 9, 2024. Steve was born in Upper Sandusky, Ohio on March 30, 1951, to Marion and Jeanette (Miller) Hewett. Steve graduated from Columbian High School in Tiffin, Ohio in 1969 and went on to earn degrees from Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin, and the University of Iowa culminating in a doctorate in zoology. His degree and post-doctorate biologic work included studies in Costa Rica, Malaysia, the Great Lakes and Solomons, Maryland. He was an Assistant Professor in the Limnology Departments of UW and UI. Steve worked for the fisheries departments in the Department of Natural Resources of both Wisconsin and Michigan. Fishing, hiking, canoeing, and photography were among Steve’s favorite hobbies.

Steve is survived by his wife, Deb Jones of Spring Green; stepson, Benjamin Serum; grandchildren, Jacob and Noah Zapata all of Madison; four brothers and their families, Timothy of Anaheim, California; Terry (wife Barbara, children, Campbell and Emma) of Bolton, Massachusetts; Daniel (wife Laura) and James (wife Sandie, children, Abigayle, David, and Alison) of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was preceded in death by his parents, his stepdaughter, Micayla Jones Zapata, and his nephew, James Hewett.

A life celebration will be held at a future date.

Online condolences available at The Richardson-Stafford Funeral Home is assisting the family with the arrangements.

Annual Retired Wildlife Management
Get Together

Dave Gjestson got the gang together again this year in Black River Falls for the Annual Retiree Wildlife Management Get Together. The weather was perfect.

Back row,(l-r): Dave Linderud, Doug Fendry, John Cole, Chuck Pils, Dave Gjestson, Jon Bronsdon, Ed Frank, Jim March, Jim Raber
Front row,(l - r): Tim Andryk, Bob Michelson, John Kubisiak, Kim Mello, Terry Valen, Tom Bahti

March 2024

Edwina Kavanaugh retired from WDNR in 2019. She joined the DNR Bureau of Legal Services in 1992 as an attorney, but law was her second career. As a New Orleans native, she’d worked in Lafayette LA as an Internal Revenue Service Tax Auditor (1973-76) and Revenue Agent (1976-87). But in 1986 she decided to change careers, quit IRS, sold her house, and moved west to attend Berkeley Law at the University of California (1987-90).

After graduating in 1990 and passing the California Bar exam she moved to Pago Pago American Samoa to work as a law clerk for the Territorial High Court. She returned to the Bay Area in late 1991, and after a job hunt in August she moved to Madison to become a WDNR staff attorney and Midwesterner.

In her 27 years with WDR Edwina advised various programs - hazardous waste, drinking water & ground water, waterways & wetlands, public trust issues, public access to navigable waters, environmental grants & loans, shoreland and St. Croix riverway zoning, forest tax and managed forest law, the dry cleaner remediation program, and septage.

Edwina especially enjoyed advising staff on environmental enforcement, reviewing referrals to DOJ, and working with DOJ attorneys assigned to those cases. She represented WDNR in 80+ contested case hearings in waterways & wetlands, drinking & groundwater, well driller license revocations, and forest tax & managed forest law. She trusted the intelligence and expertise of staff in their fields of science and saw her job as helping them apply the law to the facts and evidence to tell their story in court and at hearings to achieve the best environmental results.

She retired in June 2019 to travel, hike, trail run/walk, cross country ski, bird watch, swim, and attend music concerts, operas, movies, live theater, lectures, and museums. She enjoys catching up with long time friends and making new ones. Like many retired conservationists, Edwina enjoys the free time that retirement provides but still misses the frequent contact with DNR folks that her job provided.

March 2024

Robin Nyffeler was hired as a law clerk at WDNR in 1990 while attending the University of Wisconsin Law School. After working as a legal intern, Robin was hired as an attorney in 1992. During her 30 year career, Robin primarily provided legal assistance to a few water pollution programs, both point source and nonpoint source programs, as well as several financial assistance programs. Robin retired in 2022, but she returned as an LTE in 2023, and is currently working a few hours a week for the WDNR. As an LTE attorney, Robin is continuing to provide legal advice on Clean Water Act issues and other administrative law issues.

In her spare time, Robin enjoys reading, gardening, spending time with her friends, family and standard poodle Henry, as well as hiking in the Driftless area and other woodlands of Wisconsin. She also enjoys time spent on or near a lake, stream, river, wetland or ocean…water is a source of joy for her.

March Special Guest Speaker
Chuck Pils
Chuck Pils photo Chuck Pils was a DNR wildlife biologist who worked for 33 years before retiring in 1999.

He has traveled to Cuba 9 times from 1999 to 2017 and has worked with Cubans on educational, scientific, and diplomatic issues.

His talk, Cuba Science, explores cooperative programs between the U.S. and Cuba including medicine, education, and natural resource management.

Chuck's presenation      cuba flag
Linda's video of Cuba      Linda video
Cuba: An American History      Cuba Book

ADDIS, James (Jim) T.

James (Jim) T. Addis, aged 86, passed away peacefully at Oakwood Village, Pioneer Prairie, on February 10, 2024, surrounded by his family and loving wife, Ann, after a long battle with cancer.

Jim was born in Sandusky, Ohio, to Joanne and Lloyd Nichols. He received a master's degree in Limnology from Ohio State University after conducting research on Lake Erie.

In 1974, Jim joined the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as a fisheries manager in the Southeast District. He quickly rose through the ranks, demonstrating exceptional leadership skills in various high-level administrative roles and successfully handling several complex and controversial natural resource management issues.

Jim was a dedicated Badger sports fan and a skilled photographer who generously donated his photographic talents to Habitat for Humanity and the Madison Mallards.

He is survived by his wife Ann, son Steven Addis, daughter Bonnie Cotton, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and numerous friends.

Memorial donations may be made to the Oakwood Hospice or the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.

ETF Customer Experience Project

As many of you know the Association of Retired Conservationists is a member of the Coalition of Annuitants, WICOA, an organization made up of 22 retired state employee organizations’ similar to ARC.

I am your ARC representative at WICOA and am providing these documents from the Employee Trust Funds. ETF is in the initial stages of conducting a Customer Experience survey regarding the services they provide to retirees.

Below are two links, the left is a presentation about their Customer Experience project, and the link to the right is a Customer Experience Survey.


Bob Schaefer

Customer Experience
Customer Experience

Besaw, Wayne

On January 1, 2024 Wayne F. Besaw, age 84 passed away at Theda Care Hospital Berlin with family by his side. His death was due to congestive heart disease. Wayne was born in Berlin, WI on August 21, 1939 to Charles and Eleanor (Freimark) Besaw. He attended St. Stanislaus Catholic School, Berlin High School (Class of 1958) and the University of WI-Stevens Point. On October 21, 1961, he married his high school sweetheart Joan Mlodzik at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Berlin. Together they had three sons and went on to celebrate 62 years of marriage.

Following Wayne's graduation from UW-Point in 1962, the couple moved to Berlin. Wayne became employed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources working in Fisheries at the Oshkosh location. A position became available a year later in Wildlife Management and he relocated to the Berlin regional DNR office.

One of his primary job functions was negotiating and acquiring land for the projects of Grand River Wildlife Area and the White River Marsh Wildlife Area. He also obtained game warden credentials and worked law enforcement during special hunting seasons.

He very much enjoyed his career with the DNR and working with the many people he met along the way. Wayne retired from the DNR in 1997 after 34 years of service and began another phase of his life known as “retirement”.

Those years were filled with spending fun times with his family, traveling with his wife and friends throughout Wisconsin and numerous trips to Branson, MO, reading, playing cards and taking many fishing trips to Green Lake and Lake Poygan along with several trips to the Canadian waters. Volunteering at the local food pantry, delivering mobile meals, participating in DNR projects such as water sampling on Lake Poygan and helping with various functions at All Saints Catholic church were other activities he enjoyed and did for many years. Wayne will be remembered by all who knew him as a caring, honest and law abiding person.

Wayne is survived by his loving wife, Joan; sons, Michael (Dawn) Besaw, Neshkoro, WI, Craig (Lori) Besaw, Plover, WI and John Besaw, Columbus, WI., grandchildren, Joshua (Kate) Besaw, Nashville, TN, Kendra (Tom) Crowell, Beaver Dam, WI, Ryan Besaw, Los Angeles, CA, Brett Besaw, Philadelphia, PA, Brianna Besaw, Plover, WI, Dayton Besaw, Columbus, WI, Ashlyn Besaw, Sun Prairie, WI, Olivia (Liam) Boswell, Sun Prairie, WI; and great-grandchildren, Finnelly, Weston and Leo. Also surviving is his sister-in-law Ina Mlodzik, Berlin, WI, nephews, nieces and many friends.

Wayne was preceeded in death by his parents, his brother, Lawrence Besaw; sister-in-law, Barbara Besaw; brother-in-law, Robert Mlodzik; and sister-in-law, Sally Jo Mlodzik.

In honoring Wayne's wishes, cremation has taken place and private funeral services will be held with inurnment at St. Stanislaus Cemetery.

In place of flowers a memorial has been established in Wayne’s memory.

Raftery, Ruth Ann

Ruth Ann Raftery, age 74 of Madison, WI passed away on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, at UW Hospital in Madison.

She was born on April 16, 1949, in Monroe, WI the daughter of Everett and Marian "Jackie" (Tollefson) Erickson. Ruth Ann graduated from New Glarus High School in 1967. She married Jim Raftery and they later divorced. She retired from the Wisconsin DNR after 37 years of service where she had been the section chief for licensing. Ruth enjoyed spending time with family and friends, their time spent together may have included dining out, hitting the casino, or shopping.

Ruth Ann is survived by her sister, Diane (Van) Loeffel; nieces: Jackie (Steve) Holcomb, and Amy Lipman; nephews: Brian (Shelly) Snider, and Mike (Nancy) Snider; great-nieces and great-nephews: Katelyn (Trent Siegenthaler) Thompson, Alyssa, Haylee, and Caitlin (Cole Xander) Holcomb, Sam (Ben) Lawfer, Steve (Kim) Snider, Jacob Lipman, and Taylor, Erica, and Lizzie Snider; great-great-nephew, Arlo (who she adored), along with two others on the way; and special friend, Mary Kay Heimann.

She was preceded in death by her parents; and sister, Kathie Snider.

A memorial service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, December 21, 2023, at the Zentner-Beal Funeral Home, 29 Sixth Ave., New Glarus, WI, with Mary Gafner officiating.

A gathering of relatives and friends will precede the memorial service from 9:00 a.m. until time of services on Thursday, December 21, 2023, at the Zentner-Beal Funeral Home in New Glarus.

Online condolences may be given at

Gene VanDyck Dodgeville Coach Extraordinaire

Gene VanDyck, former Fisheries Supervisor in Dodgeville, was recently featured in a Wisconsin PBS 'John McGivern's Main Street' series travel segment. Hear all about Gene's thirty year history of coaching girls softball.

Click Here to See the Program